The Seattle Sounders’ signing of Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro in July was one of the catalysts of the team’s remarkable turnaround. Their 4th place finish and playoff qualification seemed quite impossible, but the arrival of Lodeiro changed everything. His rise has been important and impressive, but his season isn’t over. The slate is clean, and the playoffs are an entirely different game. Despite his excellent performances and the praise from all corners that has followed, Lodeiro has chosen to stay humble and continues to express a desire to learn and grow as a professional.
The playoff format in MLS is unique compared to the other domestic leagues Lodeiro has played in, though he’s played in plenty of big games in tournament settings - like in the Copa Libertadores and two World Cups - so he knows a few things about the pressure that comes with a big game. He told the media on Wednesday through a translator, “what we have to do is approach every game like it’s our last game, and that’s what we are going to do beginning tomorrow.”
In fact, Lodeiro is so confident in his knowledge and experience of big games, that he is prepared to help out the younger guys like Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan, who haven’t really played much on a big stage. He said that for him, “one of the goals [with] those guys who are new to this stage, is to calm them down and give them the confidence to go forth and be successful.” Morris in particular has made an impression on Lodeiro, who praised the rookie’s talent, passion, and desire to grow as a professional.
Captain Brad Evans (among others) has been effusive in his praise of Lodeiro, calling the Uruguayan the “missing puzzle piece” of the squad. Lodeiro was humbled by the compliments, saying that “for someone that has the experience in this league and the authority in the clubhouse, it gives me confidence and allows me to better understand my role with this team and how we want to move forward together.” Despite being one of the best players to ever don the shirt, Lodeiro seemed to acknowledge his inexperience in the league and expressed genuine desire to learn and grow.
Many around the league have also been impressed by Lodeiro’s play since arriving in Seattle, and there has been some chatter around Lodeiro being a contender for the Newcomer of the Year award. He again appears flattered by the praise - but he doesn’t have any desire to dwell on it. “That makes me really happy...to know that the performance I’m putting on the field is being recognized, but at the end of the day it’s all about the team and making sure we’re doing things right.”
On the field is where Lodeiro shines, and he naturally prefers to do his talking there. The physicality of the league initially surprised him, but Lodeiro has embraced the MLS style of play and knows that it will be magnified in such an important game as Thursday’s. “We just need to know that that level of physicality is coming, to be prepared for it, and to leave it all out there for the club.”
Expecting to be buoyed by the home crowd he’s already grown to love since arriving in Seattle, Lodeiro said that he’s prepared to help his team leave absolutely everything on that pitch. In discussing leaving it all out there, Lodeiro outlined a few of his keys for the Sounders’ knockout round match against Sporting KC. “We know that the game is 90 minutes long, so we need to be patient, we need to be calm, we need to not get ahead of ourselves, to let the game flow naturally.”
This is how Lodeiro often appears on the pitch: despite the maelstrom raging around him, he looks calm and composed both on the ball and off it. He might appear to be at peace out there, but this is in no way a reflection of his approach. Lodeiro calls Thursday’s against Sporting KC a “live or die” situation, one that he’s more than prepared to face.